DETOX BEDS - Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne was in Red Deer at Safe Harbour Society to announce the opening of 20 new medical detox beds to help combat the ongoing opioid crisis. Todd Colin Vaughan/Red Deer Express

WATCH: Alberta Government opens 20 medical detox beds at Safe Harbour

Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne officially opened 20 detox beds

Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne was in Red Deer to officially open 20 medical detox beds at Safe Harbour Society to help battle the ongoing opioid crisis which is decimating Albertan communities.

The beds are funded through a $1.6 million grant to the Safe Harbour Society, which is now providing 24/7 access to a team of doctors and nurses. Local physicians, like Safe Harbour’s Physician lead of Medically Supported Detox Dr. Michael Mulholland, provides medication-assisted treatments such as methadone and suboxone.

So far, the detox beds have provided services to over 127 people.

“This life-saving program helps save mothers, sons, daughters, cousins, fathers and friends,” Mulholland said in a press release. “The reality is that addiction is a medical and social issue, and those who struggle with substance-use issues are part of our communities and families.

“As a physician supporting this program, my goal is to help those who need this detox care to receive it in a place that brings together the health-care system and community supports to care for the whole person, and to get them the help they need.”

Payne, who took part in an aboriginal prayer prior to the official ribbon cutting, said this is a big step towards battling the opioid crisis in Alberta.

“Making sure that people struggling with opioid dependency get treatment when they reach out for help is key to preventing more lives from being lost to the opioid crisis,” she said in a press release. “Medication-assisted treatment is described as a game changer from people receiving that support. These enhanced beds in Red Deer will help people in Central Alberta with opioid dependency get the medical care they need closer to home.”

Kath Hoffman, executive director of Safe Harbour, said this is going to make a huge difference and already has for the last six to eight weeks since the 20 beds officially opened.

“What happens is our buddy comes into detox and he (or she) is getting front line emergency medical care,” she explained. “There are now more medical options to help with his (or her) drug dependency. That is a big deal for our buddy.”

She added that the safety provided by AHS nurses and doctors means that families who drop their loved ones off at Safe Harbour can rest a bit easier knowing they will be safe at Safe Harbour.

The medical beds also will have an impact on reducing stress on the Red Deer Regional Hospital’s emergency room, according to Hoffman.

“As far as the community goes, we know we can help the hospital by getting those emergency beds freed up sooner,” Hoffman said. “Doctors at the hospital are helping people and now rather than keeping them in beds, they can send them down to Safe Harbour where those people will still receive the medical support they need.”

Hoffman said it is important that the community is educated on the fact that opioid addiction is a disease that is affecting real people.

“At Safe Harbour we serve six types of people — mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters,” she said. “That is a very difficult thing for people to remember.

“We have a lot of work to do to educate people that this is not the social issue that people think it is, but rather a health one. These medical supports go a long way in helping us tell that story.”

She added addiction is typically only a symptom of a greater mental health issue such as past trauma.

“I see the people in the Mats Program that come in and stay overnight here. They are high or intoxicated and I think, ‘How deep is that pain that it requires that level of numbing?’”

She added it is important to remember that addiction is not a choice and that people need to be given care and medical attention.

“It happens first of all on a front line level like we are at Safe Harbour, providing those faces of welcome and connection so they know they can come in and they will be welcomed and that we will do all we can to wrap supports and resources around them.”

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